An internal review of the Conservative Party’s 2021 election campaign says the party needs to recruit a wider diversity of candidates and increase its outreach with ethnic communitites if it hopes to improve on last year’s results and make gains in Canada’s largest cities, according to a Conservative source.
Former Conservative MP James Cumming has completed his assignment to conduct a post-mortem of the party’s 2021 election campaign, including a review of the performance of Erin O’Toole, the party leader. Mr. Cumming was scheduled to brief the national Conservative caucus on his findings Thursday during a closed-door meeting. Mr. O’Toole is scheduled to speak with reporters later Thursday.
The Globe and Mail has not viewed a copy of the full report. However, a Conservative source provided a summary of some of the key findings.
Deputy Ottawa Bureau Chief Bill Curry, Parliamentary Reporter Marieke Walsh, and I report here.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter sign-up page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
PM IN ISOLATION - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is isolating at home after learning that he was exposed to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. Story here.
FREELAND HIGHER THAN TRUDEAU IN LEADERSHIP POLL - Deputy Prime Minster Chrystia Freeland scores higher than Justin Trudeau as the preferred choice as leader of the Liberal Party with a new poll showing Canadians are deeply divided about the Prime Minister’s performance. Story here
TRUCKERS CONVOY EN ROUTE - A convoy of truckers protesting against the federal vaccination mandate could arrive in the capital as early as Thursday, and other groups and counterprotesters will likely join their multiday demonstration, Ottawa police say. Story here. Meanwhile, Global News reports that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s brother in law has asked for his $13,000 donation to the convoy to be returned. Story here.
OTTAWA AWAITING ONTARIO CHILD-CARE SPENDING PLANS - The federal minister in charge of child-care efforts says Ontario still hasn’t laid out how it would spend billions in funding allocated under a child-care deal.
FEDERAL MINISTER DENOUNCES “TERRORIST” LABEL - Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says a tweet from an Ontario politician labelling him a “terrorist” is just another example of the “unacceptable” aggressions Canadian minorities deal with every day. Story here.
QUEBEC OPPOSITION READY TO FIGHT ANTI-VACCINATION TAX - The two biggest opposition parties in Quebec say they are ready to fight the proposal from Premier François Legault to impose a health tax on unvaccinated Quebecers as the National Assembly resumes sitting next week. and details of the plan are released. Story here from The Montreal Gazette.
GUIDANCE ON LONG-TERM CARE - An organization that develops health-care standards has released a draft of new long-term care guidance that the authors hope will fundamentally change the way Canadian care homes are accredited and inspected. Story here.
U.S. AND NATO RULE OUT UKRAINE CONCESSION - The United States and NATO have each sent written replies to Russia over its security demands, saying they would make no concessions when it comes to Ukraine’s possible future in the Western alliance. Story here.
CANADA STEPS UP UKRAINE MEASURES - Canada is extending its soldier-training mission in Ukraine for three years and supplying non-lethal defensive equipment and intelligence sharing to the country’s armed forces amid fears of a Russian invasion. Story here.
THIS AND THAT
The House of Commons has adjourned until Jan. 31 at 11 a.m. ET.
CENTRE BLOCK RENOVATION Q&A - The iconic Centre Block of Parliament Hill - the key complex of the Parliamentary precinct - is a shell of itself these days. It has been emptied out for up to $5-billion in renovations expected to last until at least 2030 to modernize the complex constructed in its current form after a 1916 fire. It also includes a new welcome centre through which visitors will enter Centre Block. Centre Block business involving MPs has, since 2019, been shifted to the West Block, another building on Parliament Hill. That includes a newly built chamber where MPs gather for Question Period, debates and votes. Meanwhile Senate business has been shifted to the former Government Conference Centre, once a train station, near Parliament Hill. The Politics Briefing newsletter spoke to Rob Wright, assistant deputy minister for the Public Services and Procurement federal department in charge of the project, and Jennifer Garrett, director general, Centre Block Program, about the project:
Q-What do you hope to accomplish with the project by the end of this year?
A-(Rob Wright) “We’ll be really moving the excavation work towards completion. About 45,000 truckloads of bedrock will have to be removed as part of that excavation. We’ve got about 26,000 truckloads that have been removed. When you look at carefully taking apart the Centre Block, we have to take away all the asbestos-containing material, and really get at the structure. At this point, we’ve taken out about 16 million pounds of asbestos-containing material from the building. The Centre Block has in excess of 20,000 heritage assets throughout the building. You look at the marble flooring for example, which would be a heritage asset. There’s 35,000 marble tiles throughout the building. So there’s this tremendous rich covering of heritage material throughout the building that has to be carefully taken off so that it can be conserved. And then we can restore and strengthen the structure. And then we have to put all the modern systems, whether you’re talking about mechanical, electrical, plumbing and all of that stuff that was at the complete end of its lifecycle. And all the digital kind of network throughout the building as well.
Q-Why is it taking a decade to complete this project?
A- (Mr. Wright) We have to carefully take this building completely apart. And then we have to take all of the asbestos-contained material out of it. And it’s a tremendous amount of effort to accomplish that. And then we have to bring [the building] to modern code. For example, the Centre Block had sprinkler coverage for approximately 20 per cent of the building. It also only met about 30 per cent of the modern seismic code. So it has to be brought up to modern seismic code. Eventually we’ll be separating the Centre Block from the bedrock and putting it on approximately 600 base isolators, which are essentially these massive shock absorbers.”
Q-Has the deadline for the project shifted? We’re obviously going through the pandemic.
A-(Mr. Wright) We’ve baselined the schedule at 2030, 2031 for the substantial completion of the construction, There has been no shift on that.
Q-Have there been any surprises or setbacks to the project?
A-(Mr. Wright) - The only thing I could really point to is the foundation on the east side of the Centre Block, underneath the Senate portion of the building was essentially a rubble foundation, which was in a lot worse condition than was anticipated. So we had to change the approach and put a new concrete foundation on the exterior, and the interior. We have the appropriate contingency elements in the budget to absorb that.
Q-Is there any thought on what to do with the West Block once the project is completed?
A-(Mr. Wright) The West Block was designed with two uses in mind, both its interim use which it is undergoing now and its permanent use. It will permanently be offices for parliamentarians. The only part of it that will evolve is where the chamber is. We have no final decisions taken on that, but it was designed with potential uses in mind. So you could add more committee rooms in there if that is required by Parliament. It could be a large gathering space. It works perfectly for that. It has these multiple uses.
Q-What’s the most interesting item that has been discovered in the renovation?
A-(Jennifer Garrett): We’re estimating we’re going to have about 200,000 artifacts at the end of the day, approximately. To date, we’ve catalogued around 150,000. They range from military buttons and old ceramics to nails and other components from the previous construction activities in Centre Block. The most interesting artifact for me was the unearthing of what is known as a knife or a mòkomàn, and is considered to be pre-contact, made of chert. We’re looking at transferring custody of that back to the Algonquin First Nation.
Q-Do you think Canadians are fully aware of this project?
A-(Mr. Wright) -We did some public policy research recently. Canadians that are aware are very interested. They care a lot about it. But the further you get away from Ottawa, the awareness does reduce. The awareness is not even across the country, and maybe not as high as I would like.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
THE DECIBEL – On Thursday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Economics Reporter Mark Rendell talks about what the Bank of Canada’s recent decision to keep its key interest rate at a record low of 0.25 per cent means. Mr. Rendell also gets into just how our central bank works and its role in making our economy run smoothly. The Decibel is here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Private meetings. The Prime Minister spoke with Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, and Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš, Prime Minister of Latvia. The Prime Minister delivered opening remarks at the virtual National caucus winter retreat, and was to deliver remarks during a virtual International Holocaust Remembrance Day event.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole attends a caucus retreat in Ottawa, and is to hold a media availability.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh joins virtually with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has to unhitch his party from the `Freedom Convoy’ or get run over: “So why are some Conservative MPs loudly supporting a small group of denialists in big rigs? Why are they buying into an anarchic, anti-social distortion of “freedom” that’s imported from the U.S.? Conservatives are supposed to be the people who believe in law and order, common sense and protecting your community. Mr. O’Toole needs to stand up for the silent majority of Canadians – the overwhelming majority, including among his own voters – who understand that the past two years have been a real public-health crisis, not a hoax. He would be doing himself, his country and his party a favour.”
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on how the split within the Conservative Party reflects division within the country: “One wing of the Conservative Party is rooted in Prairie values and culture. That culture traditionally places a premium on individual freedom and responsibility, which is why conservative Prairie governments have been slower to lock down and quicker to open up throughout this pandemic. Ontario’s political culture, in contrast, tends to be more communitarian and pragmatic. Throughout the pandemic, the focus in that province has been on protecting the health care sector, which is why Premier Doug Ford, despite being conservative, has been quicker to shut down and slower to reopen than his Prairie counterparts. Any federal Conservative leader must respect and accommodate the populist, don’t-tread-on-me base of the party anchored in the Prairies, while winning over the suburban Ontario voters that elect governments.”
Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on war drums not beating in Moscow: “On the phone from Moscow was Mikhail Gorbachev’s long-time right-hand man, Pavel Palazhchenko. At the Gorbachev Foundation, he’s been trying to assess if a Ukraine invasion is likely or whether the West is overreacting. He leans to the latter. He’s found certain things strange. In Vladimir Putin’s state-controlled media there’s been no drumbeat for war. If the Kremlin leader is about to invade, isn’t it likely that his propaganda machine would be making a big case for it? “You would think so,” said Mr. Palazhchenko, who first worked with Mr. Gorbachev in 1985.”
Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s dithering on Ukraine should fool no one: “An enlightened foreign policy might have recognized long ago the benefits of reducing European dependence on Russian energy by promoting Canadian liquid natural gas exports to the continent, to prevent Mr. Putin from holding Europe hostage as he does now. But the Liberals refused to look beyond their own domestic political interests to Canada’s national interests. What we are left with is a passive-aggressive mess that fools no one and only ensures yet more eye-rolling when Canada’s name comes up in international forums. None of our allies is looking to Canada for “help” on the Ukraine crisis; they know perfectly well they will not get it.”
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